Here are 7 tips to get you started on your plant-based journey with ease.
For some beginners, taking the plunge and going ‘cold turkey’ works, though cravings and binging may be present if you make these changes to drastically. If you're used to consuming dairy, meats and fish a few times a day, perhaps designing a transition schedule will help, e.g. 3 days a week, just dinners, etc. Taking the support of a health coach is also helpful. You want your switch to be positive and healthy. Many people start experiencing the benefits of going plant-based right away, reporting their energy increases, digestion improves, and cholesterol and blood-pressure go down. During the transition period you may feel a difference in your energy, hunger and cravings. Don’t worry - it’s just a matter of making the proper adjustments to fuel yourself properly. If you have any specific medical conditions or concerns, it's always good to run a new dietary path by a trusted health care practitioner.
Change can be unnerving, so identifying your motivation and letting it be your anchor will keep your intention and vision alive. Perhaps you are going plant-based because you want to have more energy and focus so you can give your best to all that you do, to your work, your family and friends. Keep that inspiration alive! And there is also getting in the right mind-set. Rather than thinking it’s about what you can’t eat and feeling deprived because you have to cut out foods, think of it as what you can eat. It's about entering into the diverse world of plant-based nutrition and feeling abundant in this world. You are probably already eating many plant-based choices, but you will learn to reframe them, e.g. they are not just the sides!
Once you have made the decision to be plant-based, keep the majority of your meals as whole-food plant-based, meaning unprocessed. Processed and packaged vegan products have grown at a rapid pace and grocery stores are filled with choices - many very delicious. However, products that replace animal foods, like fake meats and cheeses, often contain excess oils, sodium and fillers. If you are choosing a packaged vegan food, look for the least processed ingredients on the label, and check the fat and sodium. And keep these at a minimum - as sometimes foods. Remember just because you go plant-based, doesn’t mean you are instantly healthy. You still have to work at it! Vegans can easily live on junk food and frequent fast-food joints. Oreos are vegan! Many people contact me for support, saying they’ve gone vegan but they're still filling up on junk food, and want to do it right.
4. Explore new foods and recipes.
Become an explorer and get to know the plant=based landscape. Try veganizing some of your favorite recipes. Perhaps you have a favorite chili recipe. Make it without the meat! Or a stir-fry with veggies and shrimp? Try it with tofu or tempeh, or just add more veggies and serve over a grain with a fabulous sauce. You will start to notice that a lot of satisfaction from meals comes from the seasonings and condiments, rather than the actual food item itself. The tongue wants diverse interesting flavors to register satiety, so keep a well-stocked spice and condiment rack in your kitchen. Start building your own plant-based recipe library and soon you will discover the endless possibilities. Invest in some plant-based cookbooks or collect online recipes.
5. Figure out restaurants.
Once you go plant-based, you may be timid to ask for what you want when eating out at a non-veg restaurant. Don’t hesitate to ask the server what is available for vegans, if you don’t see anything on the menu. Most restaurants will come up with something for you. You can design a plant-based meal from almost any menu. Look at all the side dishes, soups and salads on the menu. Look at the menu online ahead, so you have it figured out when you get there. If there is nothing for you to eat, don’t be shy in suggesting another restaurant to your friends or family. You’ll be surprised at how many of your non-veg friends will be wanting what you’re eating!
6. Understand you are being nourished.
You may be worried that once you leave animal foods behind, you’ll be depriving your body of nutrients. Truly, you will be well provided for on a plant-based diet. One of the first things your friends or family members, will ask you is Are you getting enough protein? It's just something you have to put up with! Truly, very few of us are ever protein deficient. In fact, the average American diet often provides too much protein, which can be harmful to one’s health. Rest assured that balanced meals made from vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts offer ample protein.
7. Don’t rely supplements and nutrient replacers.
So you've taken the plant-based plunge, but you're nervous that about getting specific vitamins and minerals. You stock up on lots of supplements, power bars and protein powders. It’s really not necessary! As you build a well-rounded, whole-food, plant-based diet, you'll be well provided for. We've all been deterred by the supplement industry from eating and chewing real food. Of course, if your health practitioner finds a deficiency, it should be addressed. That said, Vitamin D3 and B12 are key supplements for vegans. You can also check levels of these with your health care practitioner. If you do include bars and protein powders in your plant-based diet, look for the least processed brands.